Beaver Creek homeowner aids unpaid TSA workers at Eagle County airport
GYPSUM — Jonathan Rotella is a very frequent flyer, so he appreciates the work that Transportation Security Administration agents do — especially when they’re not getting paid. Friday, he showed that appreciation at the Eagle County Regional Airport.
Rotella, CEO of NexGen Hyperbaric, brought a number of City Market gift cards to TSA agents at the local airport. Each member of the 38-person crew will receive $50 in gift cards. That’s the lifetime maximum any TSA agent can receive from a private party.
Rotella’s home base is Naples, Florida, but he also has a home in Beaver Creek, and travels frequently on commercial flights. That means he knows many of the people at the airport by face, but not by name.
Given the amount of time Rotella spends in airports, he said he’s acutely aware that TSA agents nationwide have been working without pay for several weeks during the longest federal government shutdown in United State history.
Looking for a way to help
Rotella said he began thinking about how he could help in an immediate way. His assistant, Tracie Mardock, spent a good bit of time recently calling and emailing, learning how to contact the airport’s interim director and, ultimately, the manager of the local TSA crew.
Once the connection was made with local TSA supervisor Darrell Abbott, Rotella and Mardock delivered the gift cards.
“They were very committed to tracking (us) down,” Abbott said.
“It’s a very generous contribution,” Abbott said, adding that some members of his crew were starting to feel the financial pinch of missing two paychecks.
“This will really help some of those families,” Abbott said.
Interim airport director Barry Bratton said the local TSA crew has done great work since the partial federal shutdown began in late December.
“They’ve been wonderful,” Bratton said of the local agents. “They’re smiling, they’re motivated — God bless them.”
Abbott said he and his crew understand the local airport’s importance to the local economy.
“The airport is kind of the gateway to the valley, and tourism is the lifeblood,” Abbott said. “We’ve tried to provide a great customer service product.”
Abbott added that a lot of passengers have gone out of their way to thank the local TSA people.
Rotella is happy he was able to provide a bit more than a handshake. But, he added, “I would have hoped a private citizen wouldn’t have been the first to do this.
“Both sides of the (federal) debate should be ashamed,” Rotella added. “There’s no excuse for this.”
NexGen Hyperbaric has offices around the country, including in Avon, and specializes in wound care and sports medicine. Besides the office in Avon, another facility just opened in Burlington, in eastern Colorado. Another facility will be built this year in Salida.
But with a home here and strong ties to the valley, Rotella said he’s “honored to be part of the community. This is something we really wanted to do.”
While policymakers are celebrating a big drop in Colorado’s individual health insurance prices for 2020, they’re also scrambling to combat the sharp decline in the number of carriers in rural parts of the state where 22 of 64 counties have just one option on the Obamacare marketplace.